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What is the point of goals?

January 21, 2013

Last month I was cutting it very close on two of my yearly goals.  I wanted to run 1000 miles and I wanted to read 25 books.  This last minute close call caused me to spend  time reflecting on why I set these goals and why I still felt it was important to meet them.

Running 1000 miles was a good way to keep on track with running.  Would I have been less fit had I ran 979 miles?  Why not just run as much as I could in a year without counting?   Running 1000 miles was  a reason not to skip a run that I had no good reason to skip, but it gave me the flexibility to do other things when I wanted to.

The reading goals was especially perplexing as reading is a hobby that I do for fun (and also to learn).  Why attach a goal to that?  Statistically, I’m already going to miss almost every great book there is in the world.  If I read 25 a year, I might have 1000 books left to read in my life.  If I only read 10, I only get to read 400.  That’s a huge difference!  Again, it reminded me to spend more time with my nose in a book and less time reading random bits on the internet.

Leslie challenges the point of goals, because some of us feel guilty when we don’t achieve them.  On the other hand,  Bridgette says that goals shouldn’t be things you can easily achieve. “Because if you choose something that is already within your grasp, it’s not a goal, it’s just a to-do item.”  Personally, I disagree with them both!

I don’t  feel guilty if I don’t meet a goal.  I reflect on why, then I move on.   And I usually still did better than I would have with no goal at all.

I typically set my goals that are within my grasp.  How far can I push?  If I want to run more miles, I have to give up the time it takes to run those.  This will impact another goal!  Some goals are more in the maintenance stage, and  that is OK.  Sometimes I push myself to do new things, but I also push myself to keep on the path I’m on.

When thinking of ideas for my 2013 goals, a lot of ideas ran through my head.  I could….

  • earn extra income, outside my day job
  • do more yoga and master a handstand!  Or, uh, a headstand.
  • volunteer more time and donate more money
  • run MORE miles than 2012
  • read MORE books than 2012
  • cook more meals
  • spend more time with friends or making new friends
  • see more movies
  • read the news every day
  • learn a new language or take an art class.
  • take a photo every single day and learn how to do real photo editing
  • write more in my blog, or try to do something new with my writing
  • learn how to tango!

I can do any of those things, but I can’t do all of those things.  In fact, I find that I can’t do very many of them, at least not well!   I have tons I want to do, but I’m having trouble figuring out to focus on in 2013. I like to have something new to work, but can’t pinpoint would make me happier rather than just busier.   So… maybe my 2013 goals will be a little more boring than usual.  Is this because I am getting OLD?!?!

For me,  goals are how I translate my priorities into day-to-day actions. It’s how I track if I’m spending my energy on things that are important to me.  I think about which goals will make me happier, and what things would be nice, but  can’t be priorities right now.  I think about how much I’ve been able to do in the past, and I try to avoid putting too much on my plate.  Goals work really well for me.

Do goals work for you?  Do you like to set goals that are within your reach?

12 Comments leave one →
  1. lintacious permalink
    January 21, 2013 10:25 pm

    I didn’t mean to make “feeling guilty” my argument against goals but more so that they’re pointless. To which you and some if the comments on that post proved. If its not significant that you didn’t reach a goal, or you justify yourself into why its okay that you didn’t reach it, why bother?

    I know that if you didn’t set a goal to “run more in 2013” or “run 1,500 miles in 2013” that doesn’t mean you’d stop running completely. If you want to run more, you will.

    I do see goals as just a to-do list. To say we can’t push ourselves without a set goal is ridiculous.

    At the end of the day, goals can take a lot if fun out of things. The books goal I do not understand at all. What’s the point of reaching your goal if you’re plowing through books in December just to hit an arbitrary number?

    • January 22, 2013 8:16 am

      Why bother? Because I still work towards the goal, even if I don’t meet the bar I set. And I very often DO meet my goals. I don’t think it is lost value if I fall short, but it helps with the little decisions: should I run today? Should I read today? Running is the most apt, because you often don’t feel like it in the instant, but i’ve never regretted a run.

      Like I said, it helps me focus my time and efforts.

  2. January 22, 2013 7:03 am

    I find goals are a way to help measure the accomplishments I want in my life. For example, I have a goal of finishing 3 courses towards my degree by April 30, 2013. When that happens, I will have completed my life goal of Gaining My Degree. That’s goal number one for me this year. Goal number two is to pay off $6400 of my debt, WITHOUT adding any new debt. This goal needs to be achieved by April 30, 2013 as well. This is a step towards my next life goal of Being Debt Free on December 31, 2013.

    I use goals to help me navigate what I want to accomplish in the year ahead. I use them to help keep me focused on some of the things, and guide me to make better informed decisions. I use them because I am tired of feeling like I’ve floundered through another year without anything really to show myself. And I use them to accomplish many of my hearts dreams and desires.

    Without a goal, a dream is just a dream. Or more positively stated, a dream is just a dream until you make it a goal.

  3. January 22, 2013 3:49 pm

    I use goals to prioritize and motivate, otherwise I might a) slack off and just halfheartedly to nothing or b) get lost in the mire of a million things I want to do. I just do better with goals in general, even if I’m not going to punish myself for not reaching them. Or it pushes me to be more creative or to get out of my comfort zone. Even though I love the comfort zone. My goals are often a mix because of this.

  4. oilandgarlic permalink
    January 22, 2013 4:19 pm

    I have the “take a photo every day” as a goal, too! It’s not so easy to keep up though when you’re in the office five days a week, which is not quite inspiring as sunsets or vacation pictures.

  5. oilandgarlic permalink
    January 22, 2013 4:20 pm

    As for why I set goals…I think it’s important to aim higher and strive toward something (at some points in life) or else you get stuck in a rut. I’m not even talking about career or finances but life in general which is more interesting when you learn or see new things sometimes. I don’t set goals every year though; it depends on where I’m at in life.

  6. The Asian Pear permalink
    January 23, 2013 1:54 pm

    I love goals. I take goals fairly seriously. It’s both a motivator and a to-do list for me. Because if I don’t set it, I end up drifting. Goals are also sometimes things that push me outside my comfort level just a teeny-bit. I know lots of people don’t believe in goals though. It doesn’t fit their lifestyle or perhaps they can’t keep to them so they see them as pointless. I’m fairly zealous with my goals. It’s not neccessarily about the end goal of course but the journey getting there and feeling you’ve accomplished something. Whether or not you made it to where you wanted.

  7. February 13, 2013 12:13 pm

    I have a love-hate relationship with goals. On the one hand goals are wonderful, because it motivates me. On the other hand, however, if I can`t reach my goals, I get demotivated and completely loses any interest.

  8. oilandgarlic permalink
    March 29, 2013 8:41 am

    I just saw an article about tango classes and milongas in los angeles. You should check it out when you have a chance.


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